LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A Luzerne County bridge that was closed in 2021 for safety concerns will remain closed, at least for now.
The decision is causing controversy and a lot of debate in the communities that are linked by the bridge, Pittston and West Pittston.
The Firefighter’s Memorial Bridge, also known as the Water Street Bridge in Pittston, was closed by PennDOT in August of 2021 because of safety concerns.
County officials were hoping to have it reopened sooner rather than later but, It appears that will not happen.
“It really makes travel difficult, it creates a lot more traffic congestion, a lot more delays, instead of getting from point A to point B,” said West Pittston resident, Alyssa Crawford.
And Eyewitness News heard that from many people who used the now-closed Firefighter’s Memorial Bridge that links Pittston and West Pittston.
It was closed by PennDOT in August of 2021 because of numerous safety concerns, including two of the four primary load-bearing eye bars, in one of the spans of the bridge, being deformed and the other load-carrying parts of the bridge being badly corroded.
Traffic in that area now uses the nearby Specialist Dale Kridlo Bridge, also known as the Fort Jenkins Bridge to travel between Pittston and West Pittston.
Both bridges are supposed to be replaced in about three to four years.
But Luzerne County Officials were hoping to reopen the closed bridge to help relieve traffic congestion in that area.
I-Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick spoke to Pittston Mayor Mike Lombardo about PennDOT’s decision to keep the Firemen’s Memorial Bridge closed.
“You know we have a two-bridge situation here in the city and they are both very important but there’s nothing more important than public safety. We’ve been in good standing with PennDOT and I have to say I absolutely agree with them. it’s just not worth the risk,” said Lombardo.
Luzerne County Officials tell Eyewitness News they are confident in the report of their engineering firm and believe there’s still a chance the bridge can be reopened with a reduced vehicle weight restriction of six tons.
“The last thing I would ever want to do is introduce a situation that wouldn’t be safe for the public. I am disappointed with their decisions and I do take issue with some of their conclusions,” said Brian Thornton of the Luzerne County Council.
“So simply we feel that any reopening of the bridge would really need major work done on that bridge to make it safe,” said PennDOT District Executive, Richard Roman
Eyewitness News spoke with Roman and he says at this point, the bridge must remain closed.
“Opening a bridge at a reduced weight limit is common throughout the state with bridges, but in this case, we feel that bridge is in such a condition that it doesn’t make sense, out of the vein of public safety, to chance it and open it up to a lesser weight of vehicle,” Roman explained.
Roman says PennDOT is open to any further input from Luzerne County but, also raises the question about spending money, probably in the millions of dollars, to repair the firefighter’s bridge when it’s going to be replaced in three to four years anyway.
County officials say they hope to meet with PennDOT officials in early April to further discuss the bridge situation.